Cardinal Sodano's 'peripheral issues'

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Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was Pope John Paul II’s secretary of state, second only after the pope in Vatican’s power rankings, provided a clear answer today to anyone who might yet be wondering why and how the sex abuse crisis continues to intrude on news of church events, even the beatification of a pope.

Following is a segment of a story filed earlier today by AP writer Nicole Winfield:

“Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's powerful secretary of state under John Paul, has been accused in particular of having been Maciel's most ardent protector and supporter in Rome, at one point allegedly shutting down the canonical process against him.

“Asked Thursday in Rome to comment on the Legion scandal, Sodano told The Associated Press that it wasn't the time to speak about it.

"’How can you, in such a great moment, get into such peripheral issues when the world is applauding the pope?’ Sodano said on the sidelines of a Vatican exhibit honoring the late pope. ‘I'm stunned.’"

What’s stunning is that Sodano, who indeed not only protected Maciel, but also benefited handsomely from the Maciel largesse that was lavishly dropped around the Vatican, has not himself been banished. Sodano at one point took it upon himself to proclaim that the Vatican had satisfactorily ended an investigation against Maciel, who not only abused scores of his own young seminarians but fathered at least three children by two women. That would have fit the Sodano script nicely, except that it wasn’t true. The Vatican investigation finally caught up with the reality of Maciel, and he was ultimately banished to a life of obscurity shortly before he died. One of his sons has charged that Maciel even abused his own two boys.

Maciel lived a monstrous double life and was able to maintain favor with John Paul for years even though former seminarians and priests wrote letters to the pope and initiated legal proceedings that detailed his numerous molestations and deceptions. John Paul would hear none of it and acted on none of it.

Sodano maintained a consistent defense of Maciel and now terms molestations of youngsters and the deceptions that have doomed an order “peripheral issues.” Of all the priests available for praise and emulation, it was Maciel who John Paul chose to herald for his "intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry." He once termed this abuser, ignoring the pleas of his victims, “an efficacious guide to youth.”

This is hardly a peripheral matter. Maciel and his protector, Sodano, provide a window into the deepest flaws of a culture where abused children were cast aside while their molesters found sanctuary and in the case of Maciel, even adulation.

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